Guest Blog: Student Opportunity funding – why it counts for Bath Spa University

27 Jan 2014

Student Opportunity funding and its HEFCE predecessors have been used to fund the Widening Participation Manager role at Bath Spa University and a progressive programme of outreach activity since 1999. This has provided continuity in our strategic approach to widening participation and the embedding of its principles in our practice, supported the development of the infrastructure that enables us to meet our widening participation aims, and ensured the continuation and development of long-term outreach programmes with a number of local schools and colleges, some of which have now been in place for over fifteen years.   

The funding has enabled the university’s sustained involvement in a wide range of mature strategic partnerships between local and regional HEIs, colleges, schools and community organisations that continue to work collaboratively to support progression to higher education. Student Opportunity funding is also important to the university in its provision of innovative, tailored student services and targeted support for the university’s increasing proportion of students from widening participation backgrounds.

One example of how Student Opportunity funding supports student success at the university is our early induction programme for those who disclose a disability or specific learning difficulty prior to enrolment. The aim of the programme is to help first year students settle in and to quickly feel part of the university community by offering extra support at this crucial time. In addition, it offers some reassurance to those parents and carers who are bringing their young adults to the university and leaving them with us for the first time.  

The programme provides the opportunity for students to join us before the main arrival day at the start of Induction Week to help orientate them with the campus, their accommodation and the local area. Evaluation has shown this to be particularly helpful in easing student and parental anxiety and it gives the students space and time to settle. Student Ambassadors are assigned to help with the moving-in process and act as peer mentors to the new students. Over the course of the programme new students take part in a range of motivational and social activities where they are able to meet with staff and current students who can answer queries, offer advice and reassurance. 

The programme also offers new students the opportunity to identify their support needs before the term starts and they and their parents/carers are given reassurance that an appropriate support plan will be in place for their studies and life as a student.

Dr Sally Griffin, Widening Participation and Access Manager at Bath Spa University